Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, 128 p, RL 3
Fortunately, the Milk is the newest kid's book from Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Skottie Young, popular American comic book artist who has worked with various Marvel comic characters and illustrated the graphic novel adaptations of L Frank Baum's OZ books. Fortunately, the Milk is an absolute delight to read, perfect for bedtime and a really brilliant gift for any little person you know. In fact, reminds me very much of a starter version of Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell's fantastic Far-Flung Adventures trilogy (see below). I have to confess, having only read Gaiman's kid's books and not his adult titles, and knowing a bit about his work for adults, I am used to his stories being a bit on the dark side, as with Coraline and The Graveyard Book.
I was pleasantly surprised by the lighthearted absurdity that he brings to Fortunately, the Milk, which is a little bit like a kid's version of Douglas Adam's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I really need to review here. There is space travel, pirates, volcanoes, aliens and a plot to take over (in a way that might as well be destroying) earth. Really, though, Gaiman's letter to his readers that starts the book is better than any review I could write, so I have included it below, along with the few illustrations from the book I could find and a pretty cool book trailer. Scroll past the trailer for some interesting information about the UK edition of Fortunately, the Milk in which the Dad of the story looks like Neil himself!
Dear Person Reading This Letter,
It probably all started almost twenty years ago, when I wrote a book called The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. It’s about a boy who swaps his dad for two goldfish. It is quite funny.
This is what the dad does in the book: He is swapped for things; he does not notice he has been swapped for things; he reads his newspaper. At one point, near the climax of the book, he eats a carrot. It’s not really a positive portrayal of fatherhood, is it?
And people have been giving that book to each other as Father’s Day gifts ever since.
I have felt guilty. As a father. As a human being. People were reading my book, and learning from it that fathers were oblivious, newspaper-reading, occasionally carrot-eating lumps of distraction.
I resolved to do something about it. I would write a book in which a father did all of the sorts of exciting things that fathers actually do, in the real world.
In this case, he would go and get the milk for his children’s breakfast cereal.
Also, he should do the other things that go along with going out to get the milk. Things like escaping from globby green aliens, being made to walk the plank in the eighteenth century by pirates, being rescued by a time-traveling professorial stegosaurus* in a hot air balloon, being nearly sacrificed to a volcano god, being attacked by wumpires, and, of course, saving the world.
And I haven’t even mentioned the ponies. Or the All-Dinosaur Space Police. Fortunately, the milk is with him. And it may even destroy the Universe, if he isn’t careful.
Fortunately, the Milk is the only book I have ever written that tackles the Big Questions. The questions nobody else dares to ask. Questions such as:
What happens when you open a door on a spaceship and let the space-time continuum in?
Will evil aliens redecorate by replacing all of Earth’s trees with throw cushions, and replace Australia with an enormous decorative dinner plate with a picture of Australia on it?
Are we actually living in the present as we believe, or are we actually, as dinosaur Professor Steg claims, living in the far far future?
Also it has pictures. Lots and lots of pictures, all drawn by Skottie Young: a man who knows one end of a pen from another, and draws with the pointy bit; a man who has won awards for his drawing; a man who knows what a time- traveling stegosaurus in a hot-air balloon looks like; a man of bronze.
I did not mention that there are piranhas in the book, but there are. More or less.
Fortunately for the Universe, the book also has milk in it. Hurrah! It is also quite funny.
I am looking forward to receiving the gratitude of fathers internationally. When they’ve finished reading the newspaper, of course.
Yours faithfully, Neil Gaiman
*And inventor of the button
Check out the UK version of FORTUNATELY THE MILK!
The UK version of Fortunately, the Milk, illustrated by one of my favorites, Chris Riddell, illustrator of the UK editions of Coraline and The Graveyard Book, both of which were illustrated by longtime collaborator of Gaiman's, Dave McKean (click here for an essay Neil wrote about Dave). The picture book The Day I Swapped My Dad for a Goldfish, written by Neil and illustrated by Dave, which, as Neil explains in a letter at the start of Fortunately, the Milk, was the inspiration for this newest book and more positive, accurate representation of Dads. I love Skottie Young's illustrations for the US version, but when I saw Riddell's and realized that he made the Dad in the story look like the author, I just had to share that here...
Source: Review Copy